Born in 1871, William Forest Meserve moved to Windham with his father by the 1880s; they had been living in Wakefield, New Hampshire. His father had purchased John Brown’s mill in East Windham, which had been built in 1887. In 1888, the elder Meserve became ill, and young Will dropped out of school to run the mill. It was under his management that the mill became the first building in town to use electric lighting. This electric marvel was accomplished simply by reading a how-to book he had purchased at the Mechanic’s Fair in Boston a couple of years prior. Not only did his generator provide electric light to the mill, but to his home across the street.
By 1893, according to Leonard Morrison, the mill was “a well-equipped saw and grist, cider, and planing mill, and box factory. The Meserve family resided in a newly built house across from the mill, which was completed in 1892. With a new house and successful mill, Will Meserve was positioned well to provide for his new wife and three children; Will had married Abbie Chase of Derry in 1893.
Just a few years later, Meserve entered the automobile business. First was the “Devil Wagon”, but next he built an electric car, and shortly after his first gasoline powered automobile. Like his first car, he bought a used boat engine, except this time a gasoline powered one, and built a transmission for it. He used a Concord Carriage as the chassis, but designed the rear end himself. In 1901, Meserve used his mechanical skills to manufacture a delivery truck for the Pemberton Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts; the truck remained in use until 1924.
In 1902, Meserve founded Windham’s first, and only, automobile manufacturing company, the Meserve Auto Truck Company. While Meserve built several more custom order automobiles after 1902, it is not known whether the Meserve Auto Truck Company ever manufactured an automobile.
In 1903, the Meserve family moved to Derry, where William ran his own business, worked for H.P. Hood and busied himself with side jobs, like assembling Derry’s new mail order jail cells. Judge Bartlett of Derry ordered a custom car from Meserve in 1904; the finished automobile was thirteen feet long, one-and-a-half tons, and 50 horsepower. According to legend, Meserve was sickened by carbon monoxide fumes while building Judge Barlett’s vehicle, and was too ill to accept a position as head engineer with Packard. In 1911, the family moved to Salem, where William opened an automobile repair shop. William Forest Meserve passed away in 1933.
This article is compiled with information from several sources:
“Supplement to the History of Windham in New Hampshire”
“Rural Oasis: History of Windham, New Hampshire”